Wapiti hunter and Republican leader Nina Webber has been cleared of allegations that she recklessly fired her rifle during a November elk hunt. At the request of Park County Prosecuting Attorney …
Wapiti hunter and Republican leader Nina Webber has been cleared of allegations that she recklessly fired her rifle during a November elk hunt. At the request of Park County Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Skoric, the pending case against Webber was permanently dismissed on Wednesday.
“It's unfortunate that it had to get this far,” Webber said Wednesday, “and it’s very fortunate that Bryan Skoric and [Circuit Court Judge Joey] Darrah saw to dismiss with prejudice based off of the lack of evidence.”
The reckless endangerment charge stemmed from complaints by two North Fork residents, who reported that multiple bullets whizzed over their heads on Nov. 30.
A large group of people had been hunting in a nearby field that morning and then-Park County Sheriff Scott Steward said Webber was cited because she had shot in that direction.
However, Skoric said time-stamped photographs and other evidence he later received showed that Webber “hadn’t even fired a round at the time that the initial call went in.”
The complaint was reportedly made at around 7:15 a.m., while Webber didn’t fire her rifle until around 8 a.m.
“The timelines don’t match up,” Skoric said. The prosecutor didn’t feel it was a case he could bring to trial and “we sat down with law enforcement and they agreed,” he said. “So the state did the proper thing and dismissed the case.”
In a statement, Webber said she was targeted because of her position as the Wyoming Republican Party’s national committeewoman and as a prior candidate for House District 24, noting then-Sheriff Steward was critical of her candidacy.
“As you know, it’s been ‘open season’ on conservative Republicans, and I was the victim of a political ‘hit job’ by virtue of being the Republican National Committeewoman for Wyoming,” Webber said. “These types of lawfare tactics are designed to hurt and damage my reputation and credibility as an elected official.”
For his part, former Sheriff Steward — who left the office in January to become a county commissioner — said there was nothing political about the case.
“It had nothing to do with any of my feelings,” he said Wednesday, “because I wasn’t involved in the case, in any of the investigation.”
Steward described it as “just a matter of, the deputy was on scene and cited an individual he thought was responsible for the bullets.”
“Little did I know at the time …, or did we know, that there was some discrepancy from the time we were called” versus the initial report to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Steward said.
Skoric similarly described it as a case where the information evolved.
“I didn’t see any evidence that the sheriff's office or the deputy or the court system or my office or anybody’s trying to drag anybody through anything,” he said. “It was [the] facts of what … the deputy had, I think, at the time. And once further information was reviewed and analyzed and discussed it was determined that the state’s going to dismiss this case.”
The case drew substantial media attention, in part because of Webber’s prominence in Wyoming Republican politics. Webber’s partner, Scott Weber, said some of the allegations that made it into media accounts — such as about dozens of shots being fired, of bullets “raining down” on a nearby home and an accusation that the hunters had surrounded the herd — were “absolutely false” and came from “anti-hunters.”
Meanwhile, Webber was advised not to speak publicly about the then-pending case.
“The facts of it did not get out until we did a narrative and a timeline for Skoric … and then at that point, you know, he realized exactly what had transpired on that day,” Weber said.
As part of Webber’s defense, which was led by Cody attorney Tim Blatt, she gathered up seven affidavits from witnesses and enlisted a ballistics expert. According to Weber, that expert concluded there was effectively no way for a bullet to get out of that bowl-shaped field and travel over the house where the shots were reported.
“There’s zero evidence of any whistling bullets. Zero. Never happened,” he said.
However, Skoric noted authorities still have the nearby residents’ accounts of bullets whizzing over their heads; the prosecutor suggested another hunter could have fired errant rounds.
“To me, the evidence would suggest it was the hunter that had fired long before she [Webber] had fired that day,” Skoric said. “But there are multiple, multiple people hunting in that field.”
There were two groups hunting in the area that morning, including nonresidents who Webber did not know; she said all of her friends were “very safe.”
In her statement, Webber said she’s exploring the possibility of filing a lawsuit over the matter. She also expressed her thanks to “everyone who stood by me while I fought these false allegations.”